The U.S. Navy held a keel laying and authentication ceremony for its 10th expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel on September 26.

The keel was said to be "truly and fairly laid" as it was authenticated by William Pfister, vice president emeritus of Austal USA, by signing his initials into the keel plate. As the keel is the symbolic backbone of a ship, the keel laying ceremony is a major milestone in the construction process.

"EPFs are incredibly versatile and an asset to the Navy's fleet," said Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO), Ships. "With the production consistency that has been demonstrated in the program over the years, I look forward to seeing EPF 10 continue to progress toward delivery."

EPFs are non-combatant vessels designed to operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, increasing operational flexibility for a wide range of activities including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support, or as the key enabler for rapid transport. The ships are capable of interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, as well as on/off-loading vehicles such as a fully combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank.

EPFs support a variety of missions including overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supporting special operations forces, and supporting emerging joint sea-basing concepts. EPFs are capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. Each vessel includes a flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations. Burlington will have airline-style seating for 312 embarked forces with fixed berthing for 104.

The EPF program delivered its eighth ship, USNS Yuma (EPF 8), earlier this year and City of Bismarck (EPF 9) is preparing for its second set of sea trials before delivery later this year. Future Puerto Rico (EPF 11) started construction earlier this year and EPF 12 started construction earlier this week.

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